Transgender people in Iran face discrimination despite fatwa

Iran's transgender men and women can face harassment despite the fact the Islamic Republic has perhaps the most open mindset in the Mideast toward transgender people.

The Shiite theocracy's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious decree, or fatwa, 30 years ago calling for respect of transgender people, opening the way for official support for gender transition surgery.

Nevertheless, the general public still harasses and abuses them, and families often shun them. Discrimination in the workplace has forced some into prostitution and others to kill themselves.

Of Iran's 80 million people, estimates suggest under 50,000 are transgender, meaning their gender identity doesn't match the sex or gender they were identified as having at birth.

The existing fatwa on transgender people hardly means tolerance of gender diversity and homosexuality is illegal.